Yamashiro Yoshitomo demonstrates 'aramed' and 'armed' aspects of this interesting Okinawan Styles (through a series of videos) - although in this short clip there is an emphasis upon 'Senaka No Kitae' or 'striking through the correct use of the back':
As is similar within the Chinese concept of 'Tong Bei' (通背) - or 'correctly passing and mediating energy (force) through region of the back' - a master of this technique is not only fully 'rooted' when stood bolt-upright (and exceedingly difficult to upoot ot push-over) - but he or she can deliever highly destructive blows without first artificially dropping the bodyweight achieved by lowering, widening or elongating the stance (as younger people are prone to do). This radically reduces reaction time and allows a practitioner to effectively 'move within' and 'between' the defensive gaps offered by the oppoment and is a vitally important element of 'Iron Vest' achieved through aligning the bone structure. The relatively 'high stance' encourages and opponent to habitually 'strike' without thinking - only to hit hardened bone enlivened through correctly 'dropping' bodyweight and efficiently 'rising' rebounding force - two sides of the same force operating simultaneously from within the centre of the bone-marrow outward. As I am in no way an epert in Okinawan Karate-Do - I find these videos by accident and then 'decode' their meaning by relating it all back to my experience within Chinese martial arts.
Thank you for your interesting email regarding the relatively 'open' stance as found throughout the various lineages of Fujian White Crane Fist when practicing the 'San Zhan' (三戦) or 'Three Battles' Form - as compared with the 'closed' stance work (and obvious groin protection) found within the 'Sanchin' Kata of the Goju Ryu Karate-Do Style!
Yes - I have noticed this. I was talking to a student about this. It reminded me of the stance used for skiing. As if 'gripping' or 'stabilising' on a slippery surface. Sometimes, the old Masters (such as Master Chan) would talk about stepping in, through or onto congealed blood - which is slippery. He fought, wounded and killed invading Japanese soldiers during WWII (1941-1945) as part of the Hakka Resistance operating throughout the New Territories (a People's Militia had developed - supplied from the Mainland). His father (Chan Yun-Fat) was killed fighting in 1944 leading an attack on an Imperial Japanese Army position - armed only with traditional gongfu weapons. This was a diversionary attack whilst those armed with the limited number of rifles and ammunition attacked the main target.
His wife's mother was gang-raped by Japanese soldiers, skinned, hung-up by her hair and set fire to. Por Por (Mrs Chan) used to tell us stories for years about those terrible times - until her passing in 2011 (years later, a Detective contacted Mrs Chan and said one of her brothers had survived a Japanese village massacre and had been taken to Australia by foreigners - she got to meet him again one more time in his now native Australia a year before he passed away. I spoke to him on the telephone. He was around five years old at the time of him going 'missing' - with his small body being hidden under the bodies of the adults killed around him).
We practice falling to the ground forward, backwards and to the sides in our Hakka Longfist Family lineage - and using Ground Fighting (with a groin guard and a head guard). I suspect that other aspects of the Fujian Style in question also teach a groin guard in an accumulative sense - as is usual in traditional gongfu. Goju Ryu is highly rationalised and modernised (a process of sheer genius) - which is a good thing - but traditional gongfu is often sprawling, illogical and difficult to fathom!
PS: Wong Tai Sin is our 'Daoist' family God - as Master Chan Tin Sang (1924-1923) was a TCM Doctor (taught in the old way). It is virtually impossible to acquire statues of this 'healing' God as it is very carefully guarded by the Temple Authorities in the New Territories! We have a photograph on our family shrine - but my ex-wife currently looks after the family Wong Tai Sin statue (which was passed into my keeping by Mrs Chan upon her passing). Indeed, my ex-wife can be seen on the above-linked BBC programme - 'Escape to the Country' with our family statue of Wong Tai Sin (黃初平) shown at 5:39:
‘I was born in Naha City during August 1919 (Taisho 10) and I am the eldest son of Miyagi Chojun (1888-1953) - the founder of Goju Ryu Karate-Do! My father taught me how to use my ‘hands’ (手 - Te) and ‘feet’ (足 - Ashi) during every moment of the day! He taught me where to ‘walk’ on the road, pavement or path – and where to place my awareness to stay safe! In a similar vein – he taught me how to hold an umbrella properly so that it looks innocuous but is really a ‘weapon’ that can be used in self-defence! For the Miyagi Family – Karate-Do was not only practiced in the ‘Dojo’ - but training of the mind and body continued throughout the entirety of our lives! My father – Miyagi Chojun – was a very popular person and knew many interesting and important people! He often told me about the famous people living in Okinawa - including military personnel and literary figures - who had come to live and work in Okinawa. Due to his wide range of associations, my father was well read, well-educated and took a general (and specific) interest in many different and varied subjects. As my father took me everywhere with him when I was young – I also met these people and often witnessed (and absorbed) the discussions as they unfolded! This is how my father ensured that I had a well-rounded education premised upon practical experience and intellectual stimulation! This is how I started the development of my mind and body and developed a sound foundation in the understanding of Karate-Do! I also understood exactly how my father thought about life and his general attitude toward Karate-Do! His personality clearly shone through during these interactions!
As my father – Miyagi Chojun – believed that travelling expanded the mind, he advised me to travel to Kyoto and enrol for the Summer in a Martial Art College and study ‘Kendo’ (剣道). He respected Kendo and was very enthusiastic about me learning a different martial art! Indeed, through me experiencing Kendo training – I gained a far deeper understanding of Goju Ryu Karate-Do! My eyes were opened to a far broader view. I particularly benefitted from the Kendo technique of ‘Kakari Geiko’ (掛かり稽古). These are the techniques within Kendo which involve the development of a sound ‘defence’ - coupled with a penetrating and devastating ‘attack’. I used this experience (and knowledge) gained through my Kendo training in my later development of Goju Ryu Karate-Do! Shifu (師父) - we always referred to Miyagi Chojun by the respectful Chinese language term of ‘Master-Father’ - put a great emphasis upon ‘Preliminary Exercises’ (予備運動 - Yo Bi Un Do) that both ‘warm’ and ‘strengthen’ the bones, ligaments (joints), muscles and tendons! As these exercises are so demanding and arduous to perform and repeat – the ‘mind’ is fully developed as it is ‘calmed’ and ‘stilled’ over time! I took this crucial element of Goju Ryu Karate-Do training and developed it further so as to progress the Style. I developed what is referred to as ‘Hard-Soft Body Manipulation’ (剛柔体操 - Go Ju Tai Misao)! This is sometimes referred to as ‘Goju Body Mechanics’.
This is a development within Goju Ryu Karate-Do that all of our students a) learn and b) perform – at the beginning of each public training session held in a Dojo. (The same situation applies to closed ‘private’ lessons where groups of students are training in a Dojo). Miyagi Chojun always followed the same training habits as his teacher Higaonna Kanryo (learned in China) - which involved the performing of the ‘Sanchin’ (Hourglass), ‘Shiko’ (Horse-Square) and ‘Nekoashi’ (Cat) Stances as ‘warm-up’ techniques. Miyagi Chojun was very strict when teaching these stances and would shout very loudly at the beginning of a training session to encourage the flow of energy and attentiveness of a student! The stance work teaches how to drop the bodyweight correctly, how to stand ‘still’ (rooted to the spot) and how to project the rebounding force forward and back correctly. Whilst practicing kata, Miyagi Chojun stated that each Kata possesses various (inherent) characteristics - such as how to stand, how to use the hands, how to use the legs and feet to kick correctly and how to move in any direction properly amongst many other important attributes. I was told to think carefully about what the concept of each individual Kata meant - and how each individual movement within each Kata should be accurately interpreted and performed.
A defining aspect of Goju Ryu Karate-Do is that ‘distance’ is rapidly closed from ‘far’ to ‘near’ in a manner that exposes the opponent to danger whilst keeping the practitioner (traversing the ‘distance’) safely protect (through a superior technical positioning). This means that although there are variations and contradictions within the Kata movements of Goju Ryu Karate-Do – the emphasis is always upon ‘closing’ the distance and engaging the opponent with effective (and devastating) close-quarter-combat. The opponent is inundated and overcome with a variety of rapidly deliver and perfectly timed (powerful) martial interactions – involving the effective movement of the arms, legs and torso, etc. The movements, although ‘attacking’ - are delivered in such a manner that ensures the Goju Ryu Karate-Do practitioner is ‘safe’ whilst inhabiting the quiet ‘centre’ inherent within each set of movements. Quite often, words do not convey the totality of the defining principles of Goju Ryu Karate-Do – but words do serve an important supporting role in the teaching process. Obviously, individuals will understand what is said and taught to them according to their age, maturity and level of experience. This is why an effective teacher understands this and applies the teachings of Goju Ryu Karate-Do according to the level of awareness that a student brings with them into the Dojo. After-all, a good teacher is able to produce an equally good and effective student.
When Master Miyagi Chojun passed away in 1953, I (Miyagi Takashi) was recognised throughout the Miyagi Clan in Okinawa as the true ‘Inheritor’ of the Goju Ryu Karate-Do ‘Lineage’. This is the ‘Family’ lineage which is separate and distinct from those other numerous ‘lineages’ transmitted ‘outside’ the family. The ‘Family’ transmission represents the ‘internal’ lineage – whilst all the other transmissions are representative of the ‘external’ lineage. This does not imply that one transmission is better or worse – but rather merely ‘different’. In the ‘Name Temple’ the pictures and the urns holding the cremated remains of the Miyagi Family are obvious for all to see (stretching back hundreds of years). I am part of this ‘Family’ transmission – whilst all those sharing in the ‘external’ transmissions have their own ‘family’ lineages that are separate and distinct (and all equally valid in their own right). Furthermore, it used to be that the ‘internal’ (Family) transmission was only taught (privately) within the family – whilst the ‘external’ lineages were public – but today, generally speaking, ALL ‘lineages’ are publicly taught to anyone who wants to learn. As for myself, I developed the ‘Komeikan’ (‘Transmitting Brilliance Training Hall’) during my time living in Tokyo to teach Goju Ryu Karate-Do (from 1951 onwards) to the general public as the only representative of the Miyagi Family. I have conveyed the teaching of my father – Miyagi Chojun – in a logical and correct manner, whilst also adding my own understanding. This is a process of evolution encouraged by both Higaonna Kanryo and Miyagi Chojun. Tradition is protected and conveyed through a process of continuous and relevant improvement.’
Japanese Source Article:
During a two-week visit to Hong Kong and the New Territories during February 1999 - which included a visit to the 'Chan' (陳) ancestral village in the Sai Kung area of the New Territories (as well as a trip over into Shenzhen to visit other relatives), I engaged in the usual gongfu activity of 'Form Swapping' with any other interested parties. Chinese gongfu Forms are like a form of cultural currency that involves a 'sharing' process which develops the over-all understanding of China's martial heritage of each individual involved! It is not that these 'new' or 'unfamiliar' styles are necessarily integrated into existing styles, systems and schools (although sometimes they are), but rather that practitioners of a certain level of attainment possess the ability to 'look beyond' and 'see through' the usual stylistic barriers that usually 'separate' and 'define' martial traditions! Indeed, as Master Chan Tin Sang (1924-1993) has a good reputation in the area, I was approached by various individuals to 'share' a gongfu Form over a friendly cup of tea! One such individual belonged to the now very affluent and exclusive 'Beggars and Wanderers Society' who offered to exchange one of our Longfist Forms for a Tiger and an Arahant Form preserved in their tradition. The members of this Society used to walk the roads of ancient China 'stealing' or 'borrowing' the gongfu Forms of local gongfu schools and passing these systems around, through and into places the population of which would usually not have encountered these types or sets of movements.
These 'Beggars' were also tough and developed these Forms through the practicality of having to fight for their survival! Today, however, this Society is now comprised of families that have done well for themselves in business, and which form a type of 'Guild' around the fact that a distant relative was once a wandering beggar - similar to an itinerant Buddhist monk - but without the support of the establishment! Travelling from place to place, and penetrating the clans and social systems of other places was a highly unusual pastime during feudal China - where China was controlled within the empire through a stringent conservativism where every household, community and area was expected to be an exact copy of the imperial house! Moving 'between' communities was viewed as being strictly unnecessary unless there was a good reason for it - but 'Beggars' often possessed the ability to move in and out of places 'unnoticed' and 'unhindered' providing they did not draw attention to themselves. This is how they 'acquired' their extensive martial knowledge - which is said to cover 'Northern' and 'Southern' fighting styles in equal measure! The style featured on this post is said to be a mixture of 'Northern' and 'Southern' styles and is termed '羅漢十八摩' (Luo Han Shi Ba Mo) or unusually' 'Arahant Eighteen Abilities of Touch'!
The use of the ideogram '摩' (mo2) is interesting - particularly as it seems to be replacing the more familiar '拳' (quan2) which denotes a closed fist. The ideogram '摩' (mo2) is comprised of:
Upper Particle - 厂 (han2) = 'Cliff'
Middle Particle - 𣏟 (pai4) = 'Hemp' or 'Linen'
Lower Particle - 手 (shou3) = 'Open-Hand'
Therefore, the use of '摩' (mo2) might denote the 'careful' and 'gentle' plucking or picking of plants from the edge of a cliff - a dangerous activity that requires skill, timing and precise movement. Indeed, this leads to the other meaning of '摩' (mo2) which is to 'study' so that the 'touch' of the individual becomes highly skilled and yet free of all malice. As this style is said to have been developed by Chinese Buddhist monastics (possibly premised upon Indian Buddhist prototypes) - it is more than likely that the use of '摩' (mo2) signifies the non-presence of greed, hatred and delusion, the three taints all Buddhist practitioners are expected to 'uproot' through hours of seated meditation and the behaviour modification enforced through stringent (Vinaya) self-discipline! I suspect this indicates that this style of 'Arahant' self-defence preserves an older naming system. The arrangement of the ideograms seem to suggest that there are 'Eighteen' fighting techniques the 'Arahants' are expected to 'Study' if the sentence is read from left to right (which I am assuming). If the arrangement is meant to read right to left, then we have 'Study Eighteen Arahants'. Whatever the case, it is more usual today to place the number 'Eighteen' BEFORE the word 'Arahant' (十八羅漢). It seems that the use of the ideogram '摩' (mo2) suggests methods whereby the Buddhist monastics emulate the techniques of 'closing the distance' between themselves and their opponent - without involving any malice of fore-thought!
Translator's Note: Chinese martial arts are diverse in origination and influence. Although a broad designation of 'North' and 'South' can be made on the grounds of the geographical origination of the Founding Masters, and certain defining characteristics - a fighting style above all was premised upon its effectiveness in combat and there was little room for sentiment or an attachment to dogma! As a consequence, and despite the truth in the 'North' and 'South' designation, there are Southern styles that look Northern and their are Northern styles that appear Southern - and this to be expected considering the human propensity for adaptation! Furthermore, cross-fertilisation led to many hybrid styles and an outpouring of diverse variations - a phenomenon that is very much the norm within modern China! ACW (5.8.2022)
The term ‘idiom’ is from the Greek (and Late Latin) word ‘idioma’ - and was prevalent from the 1580s onward – where it refers to a ‘form of speech peculiar to a people or place’. Originating from the Greek word ‘idioumai’ (to appropriate to oneself) from ‘idios’ (personal and private, properly particular to oneself). The use of an ‘idiom’ involves a highly condensed (or contracted) linguistic expression which conveys far more in suggestion (or implication) than literally contained the few words used. As a rule, the meaning of an ‘idiom’ is culturally derived (and passed on from one generation to the next) as an important (and ‘underlying’) element of culturally conditioned education. As an expression, the meaning contained within an idiom is not predictable from the grammar or language used and cannot be easily ‘guessed’ by an individual who has not been privy to the relevant education.
Chinese Language Idiom: 南船北马
南 = (nan2) - South
船 = (chuan2) Boat
北 = (bei3) - North
马 = (ma3) - Horse
English Translation: ‘Southern Boat – Northern Horse’
Chinese Language Origin:
English Translation: Tang Dynasty Poet - Meng Jiao [孟郊] (751-814) - deriving from a phrase written in his book entitled ‘Journeying Together Expert Study Book Defining South Return’.
Meng Jiao was a famous Tang Dynasty poet who recorded his return journey beginning in the Northern Tang Dynasty capital of ‘Chang’an’ (Xi’an) to the Southern areas of China. He observed that the difference in terrain between North China and South China was so stark that it effectively altered the physique, psychology and everyday culture of the respective populations! This was best seen in the trade routes (or the commercial arteries) that saw the transportation of goods and produce throughout and around China. Within North China the mountainous terrain led to horse-reliant cultures developing (including the necessary horse husbandry) - whilst in the South the extensive waterways were best navigated using all types and sizes of boats (which they designed and built after harvesting wood cultivated from sustainable forests, etc). This separation in culture led to very different sets of skills being developed with Northerners being good at carrying heavy weights on their back whilst running or walking up and down steep inclines in all kinds of weather – whilst Southerns were good at swimming, diving, and maintaining their balance when stood on the deck of a boat in all kinds of weather! In turns, these indifferences were expressed in the martial systems developed in each region – which were an expression (or extension) of the already existing strengths and skills extant within the populations – with specialities extending out from these representations. A Northern Horse Stance, for instance is two shoulder widths apart with the upper thighs parallel to the floor and the knees directly covering the feet (with a 90-degree angle between the upper thigh and lower leg). This martial skill derived from riding a horse (or Steppe pony) without stirrups – where the rider had to grip the rotund belly of the animal and steer the horse by pivoting the pelvic girdle left, right and centre. This develops tremendous supporting strength in the lower part of the body. The Southern equivalent assumes an individual is stood on a small boat with the feet shoulder width apart and the knees slightly bent. Balance is retained through the expert transference and interchange of the bodyweight between the legs – with the bodyweight dropping down the centre of the bones into the floor of the boat and into the water the boat is floating within (although not all Southern stances are 'narrow' or 'high').
Nowadays, with the modernisation of China, many martial arts styles have ‘mixed’ and ‘combined’ their respective strengths, thus creating an all-round and vigorous fighting style. Even Chinese martial arts exported to Ryukyu in the 19th century – such as Yongchun White Crane Fist – was mixed with Okinawan ‘Te’ by Higaonna Kanryo (1853-1915) and later developed by his key disciple Miyagi Chojun (1888-1953) into the world famous Goju Ryu Karate-Do! From the Katas movements contained within Goju Ryu, there appears a very strong ‘Southern Fist’ (南拳 - Nan Quan) influence – but some of these movements appear ‘Northern’ in origination! This could well have been the product of Northern stylists either bringing or transmitting their fighting styles southward. Despite geographical differences persisting in China, the development and spread of modern technology has negated these differences and made everyday life very similar for most people. Therefore, the differences within traditional Chinese martial arts styles are ‘historical’ and must be protected and preserved for future generations to benefit from. Even considering the development of sports science – traditional Chinese martial arts still have a tremendous amount to offer as regards the psychological, physical and spiritual development of an individual! This is because the Chinese ancestors were very clever when adapting to their physical conditions and recording those adaptations!
Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate-Do Retains Characteristics of Both 'Northern' and 'Southern' Style of Chinese Martial Arts!
Chinese Language Sources:
Probably from around 35-years onward, a serious practitioner of traditional Chinese martial arts should be beginning the slow transition from purely ‘external’ to predominately ‘internal’ training methods, exercises and understandings. The point of this is purely age-related – as we get older, we see more in different ways to a younger person – who naturally possesses a different type strength (which changes as age progresses). If a practitioner does not possess access to correct instruction, then he or she will not ‘understand’ how to accommodate these age-related changes, and almost always will ‘give-up’ their practice. Another factor that needs to be considered is the age that training start for an individual, as this will affect what objectives should realistically be sought-after. However, prior to 35-years old, a practitioner of gongfu should have experienced much of the ‘hard’, ‘external’ training, understand psychological and physical suffering (through direct experience), and ‘know’ how to defend themselves during a violent encounter. External ‘sensitivity’ training is very different from ‘internal’ sensitivity training. The latter example involves the turning of the mind’s awareness ‘inward’ so that a) the blood flow can be sensed, and b) after a deep-breath, the oxygen can be felt as it distributes throughout and around the entirety of the body! The point of ‘external’ and ‘internal’ training is a perfect ‘integration’ (zagong) of the two aspects so that qi-power can be manifested at anywhere on a scale from imperceptible to ‘massive’ and ‘highly destructive’. If none of this makes any sense, then train harder!
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.